Nothing Special as Latvia penguins lampoon leaders

Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:39pm EDT
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By Gunta Gasuna

RIGA (Reuters) - Four men dressed as penguins may seem to have little to do with economic crisis.

But in tiny Latvia, hit by a collapsing economy and the need to go cap-in-hand for international aid, the penguin garb worn by pop group Nothing Special reflects a bitter sense of humor at politicians' failures in response to the crisis.

The band are just one aspect of a cottage industry forming around a forecast fall in the economy this year of 12 percent as the collapse of a credit-fueled boom flips Latvia into its worst recession since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

They have called themselves after well-known politicians or businessmen, and reflect a chronic lack of trust in the political establishment of the ex-Soviet country, a European Union and NATO member since 2004.

Nothing Special was inspired by the English-language blunders of former Finance Minister Atis Slakteris, who late last year used the words to described what was happening to Latvia -- which in December took an IMF rescue package.

The band's penguin costumes come from a New Year's Eve address by the prime minister, who called on people to gather together like the birds, which huddle against the cold winds.

"We think the finance minister's statement, 'nothing special', is in itself a conceptual work of art, as to say 'nothing special' is simply amazing," said the band leader, who goes under the name of Aigars.

"That really inspired us," he added. Other band members nodded their penguin heads in agreement.   Continued...

<p>Musicians dressed in penguin masks from the "Nothing Special" band rehearse in Riga February 25, 2009. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins</p>